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A Look at the 40 New Faces in the Florida House

November 11, 2010 - 6:00pm

With the Legislature meeting on Tuesday for a special session, one-third ofthe House members were not in Tallahassee in the last session. Of the 120 members of the House that will convene, 37 of them won election for the first time in November.

The new members have a wide array of backgrounds, including a former Iowa insurance commissioner, a former chief of staff to Marco Rubio and a football player coached by Bobby Bowden. But there are also some familiar faces as three former members -- two Republicans and one Democrat -- return to the House.

Republican Larry Ahern defeated Democratic Rep. Janet Long to represent parts of Pinellas County. An Air Force vet and a small-business man, Ahern served on the St. Petersburg Nuisance Abatement Board and the county sheriffs advisory board. A Catholic, Ahern has been active with church activities, serving on the pastoral council of St. Jude the Apostle Cathedral as well as in charitable activities.

Ben Albritton, a Republican, takes the place of retiring Rep. Baxter Troutman, representing Hardee County and parts of Highlands and Polk counties. A native Floridian whose family has deep ties to the citrus industry, Albritton served as chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission.

The son of Cubans who fled the Castro regime, Republican Frank Artiles, who was elected to the seat that had been held by term-limited Rep. J.C. Zapata, brings a diverse array of experience to the Florida House. A lawyer by training, Artiles, who will represent parts of Miami-Dade, served in Iraq as a Marine and owns a pair of mall businesses.

Conservative Dennis Baxley is back in the House, representing part of Marion County. Baxley takes over from his fellow Republican Rep. Kurt Kelly who was defeated in his bid for Congress. Having risen to speaker pro tem in his previous stint, Baxley is no stranger to the House. A businessman and funeral-home owner, Baxley served as executive director of the state chapter of the Christian Coalition.

The seat that had been held by Rep. Maria Sachs stays in the Democratic column as Lori Berman heads to Tallahassee to represent part of Palm Beach County. An attorney and a congressional aide under former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, Berman is no stranger to politics and has pledged to fight to improve the economy and teacher salaries.

Michael Bileca kept the seat held by Rep. Julio Robaina in the Republican fold. Bileca, who will represent part of Miami-Dade, is a businessman who has founded a consulting company and has a background in health care. He also insists that his familys background in education will help him deal with issues in that arena.

Taking over the seat held by term-limited Rep. Bill Galvano, Republican Jim Boyd will represent parts of Hillsborough and Manatee counties. Boyds background is in insurance and community involvement, including a stint as a volunteer fireman. Boyd also has been active in local politics in Palmetto City. He served as a city councilman and vice mayor before eventually becoming mayor of Palmetto City.

Republican and Florida native Jeff Brandes defeated Democratic incumbent Rep. Bill Heller of St. Petersburg to represent part of Pinellas County in Tallahassee. Brandes served as an Army officer in Iraq and has worked in real estate and property management in the region. A fiscal conservative, Brandes has been a defender of Second Amendment rights.

With Sandy Adams headed to Congress, her spot in the House was taken by Republican Jason Brodeur. Brodeur, who will represent parts of Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties, runs a health-care consulting company. He also served on a charter review board for the city of Sanford and on the Seminole County Planning and Zoning Commission. Brodeur worked his way up the Republican ranks, eventually becoming chair of the Seminole County GOP.

Republican Doug Broxson takes the place of outgoing Rep. Greg Evers who was elected to the Senate. Politics is a family tradition for Broxson who will represent parts of Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties. Broxson, a native to the Panhandle, is the son of Bart Broxson who served as a Santa Rosa County commissioner during the 1930s and served three years as county sheriff before being killed in an automobile accident in 1959. His brother John served in the Florida House and Senate in the 1960s. The new representative worked in real estate and investments before taking up the family tradition in public service.

With Rep. Nick Thompson stepping down, Republicans kept this seat representing parts of Lee County as real-estate appraiser Matt Caldwell won in November. Caldwell, who was vice chairman of the county Republican Party, has served on a number of local boards and commissions. A member of the NRA, Caldwell will look to defend the rights of gun owners in Tallahassee.

With Rep. Ron Brise now on the PSC, Daphne Campbell kept his seat for the Democrats, representing part of Miami-Dade. Born in Haiti, Campbell has an extensive background in nursing, business and community affairs. She made economic issues and education two of the cornerstone issues of her campaign.

Jeff Clemens kept the seat held by term-limited Rep. Mary Brandenburg for the Democrats. Clemens, who will represent part of Palm Beach County, had a background in journalism before serving as an aide to Brandenburg. He was elected mayor of Lake Worth in 2007. Despite his connection with Brandenburg, he defeated her husband in the Democratic primary to win election to Tallahassee. Clemens has called for the creation of more green jobs in the state and the elimination of FCAT testing.

With Rep. Tom Anderson retiring, Richard Corcoran kept his seat, covering parts of Pasco and Pinellas counties, in Republican hands. A veteran of the naval reserve, Corcoran has an impressive background, serving as a key adviser to a number of Republican leaders. He served as chief of staff under then-Speaker Marco Rubio. He also served as a key aide to other speakers -- making him a member to watch in the new House class.

Fred Costello, a dentist and Air Force vet who served as mayor of Ormond Beach, kept the seat for the Republicans that was held by term-limited Rep. Pat Patterson. Costello, who will represent parts of Flagler and Volusia counties, pledged to fight for better health care and to help keep taxes low. He points to his record in Ormond Beach as proof of his commitment to keep taxes and spending under control.

Daniel Davis, who had served on the Jacksonville City Council and as executive director of the Northeast Florida Builders Association,now finds himself in the unlikely role of member of the Florida House earlier than could have been anticipated. Davis, who will represent parts of Clay and Duval counties, was picked by Republicans to take the seat after Rick Scott named Jennifer Carroll as his running mate for lieutenant governor. Despite facing no opposition in November, Davis has been active raising money -- leading to speculation that he has his eye on being speaker down the road.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Jose Felix Diaz kept the seat in Republican hands that had been held by Rep. J.C. Planas. Diaz has called for more funding for state attorneys' offices to fight health-care fraud and for making Florida more attractive for companies. An attorney, Diaz will represent part of Miami-Dade.

With Rep. Audrey Gibson term-limited, Reggie Fullwood kept her seat for the Democrats, representing part of Duval County. Fullwood, a longtime member of the Jacksonville City Council, promises to fight for affordable housing and job creation.

Tom Goodson kept the seat for the Republicans that was held by Rep. Ralph Poppell, and will represent parts of Brevard and Indian River counties. Goodson, who owns a construction business, is best known for his service on the Canaveral Port Authority. A longtime member, Goodson eventually became chairman. Goodson has called for an Arizona-style immigration law in Florida.

With Rep. Kevin Ambler running unsuccessfully for the Senate, his seat --representing parts of Hillsborough County --stayed with the Republicans as James Grant won it in November. An attorney who is active in his community, Grant is a member of the NRA -- and has received high marks from that group. A conservative, Grant has called for less taxation and an Arizona-style immigration law.

Bill Hager brings a wide array of experience to the Florida House. Hager, a Republican who took the place of term-limited House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, had deep ties to politics and government in Iowa, serving as commissioner of insurance and assistant attorney general in the Hawkeye State. But he also has a number of years in Florida politics. An attorney by training, Hager served seven years on the Boca Raton City Council and eventually rose to deputy mayor. He will represent parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Gayle Harrell is back in the House. Harrell served in the House from 2000 until 2008 when she ran for Congress. While she came close, she lost in the Republican primary to Tom Rooney. She bounced back in 2010, ousting Democratic Rep. Adam Fetterman to return to the House. She will represent parts of Martin and St. Lucie counties.

With Rep. Ed Homan leaving, Republicans kept his seat, representing parts of Hillsborough and Pasco counties, as Shawn Harrison moves up from the Tampa City Council. Harrison, an attorney by training, has specialized in transportation issues as well as health-care matters, even helping out the Florida Health Care Association on legislative matters. A tax fighter in his time from Tampa, Harrison also owns a small business.

A walk-on who played under Bobby Bowden for the Florida State Seminole football team, Clay Ingram won the seat that had been held by retiring Rep. Dave Murzin representing parts of Escambia County. Ingram worked his way up the Republican ladder, leading the county, the congressional district and serving on the executive board of the Republican Party of Florida.

With Yolly Roberson facing term limits, her seat, representing part of Miami-Dade, remains in Democratic hands as John Patrick Julien moves up from the North Miami City Council. Born in Haiti, Julien served three terms on the City Council, focusing on crime issues and community outreach.

Ana Rivas Logan kept the Miami-Dade seat for the Republicans; it was held by Anitere Flores, who is now in the Senate. Born in Nicaragua to parents who fled Cuba, Rivas Logan served on the Miami Dade County School Board where she has fought to prepare children to enter the 21st century work force.

With Alan Hays headed to the Senate, Larry Metz kept his seat for the Republicans, representing parts of Lake, Seminole and Volusia counties. An attorney by training, Metz served on the Lake County School Board before winning election to Tallahassee.

George Moraitis won the seat held by fellow Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff who is now in the Senate. A former naval officer who then studied law, Moraitis has focused on the economy and jobs in his campaign. He will represent parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

As David Rivera heads off to Congress, Jeanette Nunez will keep his seat, representing parts of Broward, Collier and Miami-Dade counties, for the Republicans. Nunez has a background in health-care management, with stints as vice president of external affairs at Kendall Regional Medical Center and Aventura Medical Center. She was also vice president of government affairs at Jackson Health System. Before that, she served as chief of staff to Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

With Tom Grady leaving the House, attorney Kathleen Passidomo kept this seat for the Republicans. Shell represent part of Collier County. Passidomo had a number of cornerstone issues in her recent campaign including free-market solutions to the economy as well as to property insurance.

Keith Perry has some big shoes to fill -- hes taking the place of retiring Speaker Larry Cretul to represent parts of Alachua, Levy and Marion counties. A small-business owner and a faith-based activist in the community, Perry has a solid political background, helping out Sen. Steve Oelrichs campaigns. A conservative who is against abortion and a defender of the Second Amendment, Perry has called for lower taxes and less spending.

Businessman and former Sarasota County Commissioner Ray Pilon picked up a seat for the Republicans, knocking off Democratic Rep. Keith Fitzgerald. Pilon argued that the states continuing high unemployment resulted from high taxes and government spending which he pledged to fight against in Tallahassee. He will represent parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Republican candidate Elizabeth Porter defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. Debbie Boyd to represent all of Gilchrist, Lafayette and Suwannee counties and parts of Alachua, Columbia and Dixie counties. Porter is a partner in a company specializing in medical billing and has a lengthy business career in the region.

Businessman and Republican leader Pat Rooney kept the seat held by Carl Domino for the Republicans. Rooney, a fiscal conservative calling for less taxes and lower spending, will represent part of Palm Beach County. Rooney has also called for Florida to adopt an Arizona-style law on immigration.

Irv Slosberg is back in the Florida House. Slosberg served six years in the House only to stumble as he looked to move to the Senate. Slosberg is back in Tallahassee, keeping the seat in Democratic hands that Rep. Kelly Skidmore had. Slosberg will represent parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. Slosberg, who lost his daughter in a car accident and has worked on driver safety issues since that time, has called for raising the minimum driving age from 16 to 17.

Jimmie Smith has the distinction of being the only new member of the Florida House to defeat an incumbent in the primary. Smith beat Ron Schultz in the Republican primary back in August and will now represent Citrus County as well as parts of Hernando and Levy counties in Tallahassee. Smith served as a paratrooper and was a leader of the Citrus County Young Republicans. He is calling for less spending and defending state sovereignty from an overreaching federal government.

With James Bush leaving the House, the Democrats will keep his seat, representing parts of Miami-Dade, as attorney Cynthia Stafford claimed it. Stafford, who served as an aide to former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, promised voters that she will fight for the district -- looking to bring money to their schools and improve the areas economy.

Republican Greg Steube will represent voters in parts of Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties, taking the place of outgoing Speaker Pro Tem Ron Reagan. A veteran of the Iraq war, Steube is an attorney who interned at the congressional and legislative levels. Steube has called for lower taxes and an increased commitment to Port Manatee as the Panama Canal expansion looms on the horizon. Steube has also pledged to support more technical education and an Arizona-style immigration law.

Carlos Trujillo takes the place of outgoing Rep. Marcelo Llorente, keeping this seat -- representing parts of Miami-Dade --in Republican hands. Trujillo focused on property tax reform and fiscal responsibility in his run for the House. He also pledged to fight for public safety, pointing to his record as an assistant state attorney.

With Faye Culp retiring, Dana Young kept the seat for the Republicans, representing parts of Hillsborough County. Young, an attorney, called for lower taxes and reduced spending during her campaign. She also promised to back an Arizona-style immigration law in Florida.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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